Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
Re: A Christian perspective on Budo
I waited to write a comment because your blog entry brings up so many interesting points. Although I learned about Christianity as a child, after high school I stopped attending because in college a sort of new world opened up. Religion there seemed to be in the form of social action, in the large building called Cornell United Religious Work. Perhaps in a simile to "my Father's house has many mansions" in that building there were many doors to offices of the various denominations of Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, possibly even other world religions. Whether or not there were offices of world religions like Buddhism and Islam, there was a One World Club where people from as varied countries as the Philippines, Ghana, India, and those of South America could get together, often for dinners featuring the cuisines of a different country each time, and also many cultural programs. An important social concern at the time was the American civil rights movement, and the offices lent their mimeograph machines for flyers and posters announcing a local march in Ithaca, and a bus trip to Washington before the historic, larger march where we were accommodated in people's homes and listened to a talk by Hubert Humphrey saying they were doing the best they could within the government!
So, no I didn't attend church for about thirty years except visiting my parents. Even when I moved back from living in NYC I only attended occasionally. For many of us, Christianity was not easy to understand, although there were many books available, like those of Reinhold Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, Bishop John A.T. Robinson, I barely had a chance to read around, having to keep up with the courses I was taking. Judaism was more accessible in the seventies because many inspiring books were being published, especially those about the mystic rabbis of European Chasidism. We went to the concerts of Shlomo Carlebach, who had his late father's synagogue in the West 70's but who traveled to California to get the youth there "high on music"
But enough about me! This is just to explain why I didn't learn very much about Christianity as an adult until one of my brothers needed rides to church. I along with our older brother was looking after him after our parents passed away in a car crash. Mom had many books which I read around in. The priest they knew gave beautiful, inspiring, even poetic sermons which I liked, but it was only after my own car lost its transmission and I was offered rides to church when I could no longer run errands for my carpenter husband, that I started learning in detail from the Lutheran pastor who took over. It is hard to describe the freedom where we are told the story and encouraged to find our own meaning. I don't mean to give the wrong idea, the sermons tell the story and encourage us to see where it has relevance in our own lives.
I felt I needed to give an explanation why I didn't really study Christianity until rather late in life. At one point, I might have actually known more about Shinto, since I studied in Japan and one of my teachers came to the U.S. and wrote a book which combines the themes of O Sensei's teaching, ecological concerns of the modern era, and the meaning of samurai as one who protects. The theme of stopping the spear was taught to us in Japan, before our teacher emigrated to the United States. At first he said he intended to stay in Japan to teach students about the importance of caring for the environment, but then he found that Americans were receptive to the ideas which he had developed from O Sensei's teaching.
Sorry for the long background on me, but I wanted to let you know where I am coming from. The first point I noticed in your blog entry was Shinto Pantheism and it might help for me to quote Ichihashi Sensei of the Aikikai Hombu, when I was with our tour group in the early seventies. He said," People say that Shinto has many gods. But it is One God, the others are Hataraki."
Hataraki seems to translate as "Works" as in the phrase "And marvelous are Thy Works" I don't remember even what chapter of the Bible, but I never forgot the phrase. And the verb hataraku, is the same as when we go to our jobs and work there. I never forgot Ichihashi Sensei's explanation of Shinto, though many other people kindly taught many things about it.
I remember a quote from one of the Japanese "New Religions" which are adaptations of Shinto for the modern world and which sometimes include ideas from other religions such as Christianity and Buddhism. The quote, if I remember correctly, was Sekai Enman Kanzen. This quote bothered the lady priest in our local church here who led some discussion groups here before she retired, because she was so conscious of the violence and injustice in today's world.
The word Sekai means world. Kanzen means perfect, and possibly en means round or complete combined with the syllable man, which I think is also found in the word for satisfaction.
However, when I was growing up as an adult (hopefully) I could not help but hear the phrase all around me, "in this imperfect world"
Well, here's hoping I have at least contibuted to opening up the discussion, though I only really mentioned a couple of points.
Please don't take offense, but my background on the Samaritans was that they remained after one of the captivity, possibly Babylonian, and mixed with the idolatrous people in the surrounding areas, so their Judaism was not considered "pure". This was why there was discrimination against them, but it didn't seem to me to make them enemies. Maybe there were feelings of enmity, but I guess the word enemy has a stronger connotation to me than feelings. The way I see the parable, the observant Jews passed on the other side, and the member of an oft-shunned people was the one who showed love for his neighbor and helped him. In this case a man whose ancestors and maybe himself came from Samaria, acted like the true neighbor in that second great commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself. It is an interesting thought, by the way, what he would have done if the assault and robbery had taken place in his presence...
thanks Ewen, I hope at least some of my comments are relevant and that others will add their thoughts. Christianity and martial arts has appeared on Aiki Web on earlier threads, and I hope the discussion will continue on this one too.